Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module ENGL43430: Lyric Poetry of the English Renaissance and Reformation

Department: English Studies

ENGL43430: Lyric Poetry of the English Renaissance and Reformation

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap 20


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Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • Building upon analytic and persuasive skills acquired as undergraduates, this module will lead students into sustained close engagement with sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English lyric poetry. Students will explore the historical context, thought, beliefs, and distinctive formal techniques of a wide range of canonical early modern English poets.


  • This module will trace the development of lyric poetry in England over the course of the Renaissance and the Reformation, beginning with the early Tudor court and ending with the English Civil War. Poets we will discuss include Wyatt, Gascoigne, Raleigh, Spenser, Marlowe, Chapman, Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne, Herbert, Herrick, and Marvell. In their independent work, students will be able to investigate topics such as the evolution of Petrarchan conventions; allusions to classical poetry and philosophy; the influence of contemporary theological debate; and the ambient pressure of early modern English politics. They can explore the work of other Metaphysical Poets such as Crashaw and Vaughan; other Cavalier Poets such as Carew, Lovelace, and Suckling; sonnet sequences by lesser-known figures such as Samuel Daniel, Richard Barnfield, and Lady Mary Wroth; compilations such as Spenser's Complaints, The Passionate Pilgrim, and Tottel's Miscellany; and comparisons to contemporary Continental poets such as Ronsard, Du Bellay, Labé, Marino, Quevedo, and Góngora. Students will also have the option to discuss the reception of the lyric poetry of the English Renaissance and Reformation in the work of later English poets, ranging from more immediate successors such as Milton and Pope to later figures such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edna St. Vincent Millay, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, and Geoffrey Hill.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • This module will examine the lyric poetry of Tudor and Stuart England more comprehensively and in more detail than a typical undergraduate survey. Students will explore the literary history of distinctive forms such as the sonnet, the epyllion, and the lover’s complaint. They will also connect the poetry of the period to its context: the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the turbulent world of early modern English politics.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of literary texts;
  • an ability to demonstrate advanced knowledge of a chosen field of literary studies;
  • an ability to offer advanced analysis of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature;
  • an ability to articulate and substantiate at a high level an imaginative response to literature;
  • an ability to demonstrate an advanced understanding of the cultural, intellectual, socio-political and linguistic contexts of literature;
  • an ability to articulate an advanced knowledge and understanding of conceptual or theoretical literary material;
  • an advanced command of a broad range of vocabulary and critical literary terminology.
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • an advanced ability to analyse critically;
  • an advanced ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in structured and systematic ways;
  • an advanced ability to interpret complex information of diverse kinds through the distinctive skills derived from the subject;
  • expertise in conventions of scholarly presentation and bibliographical skills;
  • an independence of thought and judgement, and ability to assess acutely the critical ideas of others;
  • sophisticated skills in critical reasoning; an advanced ability to handle information and argument critically;
  • a competence in information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access;
  • professional organisation and time-management skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate an advanced knowledge and conceptual understanding within seminars; the capacity for advanced independent study is demonstrated through the completion of two assessed pieces of work.
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 Fortnightly 2 hours 18
Independent student research supervised by Module Convenor 10
Preparation and Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 3000 words 40%
Essay 2 3000 words 60%

Formative Assessment:

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University